This is a project where 30 people got together to act as the GMs of the 30 MLB teams with the idea of conducting the offseason in one week. This is what happened in this simulation, not a prediction of what will happen in real life.
By Dan Spiro
Entering the 2016 baseball season, only two players remained from the Philadelphia Phillies 2008 World Series Championship team – Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard. At the start of 2017 campaign, that number will be down to zero. A fitting theme to describe the psyche of the Phillies front office in this offseason project.
Luckily for Philadelphia the first move off the offseason was the easiest. After 13 years and 382 home runs, Ryan Howard’s $25 million team option was declined. The Phillies honored Howard during the last home game of the season, letting everyone know their plans even before the final out of the season was recorded. Due to a $10 million buyout, the Phillies actually only saved $15 million on Howard’s deal. However, that extra money would be needed to find Howard’s replacement in free agency.
Although the Philadelphia front office is clearly in a rebuilding mode, in this project we chose to use the extra $50+ million to add some veterans to a bright young nucleus. We started with the infield.
3B Maikiel Franco and SS J.P. Crawford should man the left side of the infield for the next decade at Citizen’s Bank Park. While 2B/SS Freddy Galvez had a solid season in 2016, he isn’t the everyday answer at 2B. The Phillies chose to pick up his option for a modest $4.4 million, but plan to use him as a utility man off the bench. He also serves as insurance in case Crawford isn’t quite ready out of Spring Training.
2B Dee Gordon was acquired in a trade with the Marlins, along with RP Hunter Cervenka for starter Aaron Nola. Besides a solid glove, Gordon provides tremendous speed. A 1-2 punch of Gordon and Crawford should create a number of runs at the top of the lineup.
So who’s going to drive in those speedsters? The largest free agent splash made by the Phillies was a winning bid of $21.5 million for 1B/OF Mark Trumbo. In the small dimensions of CBP, Trumbo’s 2016 output of 40+ HRs is certainly possible. An infield of Trumbo/Gordon/Crawford/Franco could be one of the best (offensively) in the NL. The Phillies also hope that top catching prospect Jorge Alfaro may be ready for an everyday role. His offensive potential could also become a huge boost to the bottom of the order.
With all of the money spent on the infield, Josh Reddick was the only acquisition made via FA in the outfield. The Phillies lost out on bids to other FAs (including a large push for Ian Desmond), and will look to their farm to join Reddick and Odubel Herrera. Roman Quinn as well as top prospect Nick Williams will have every opportunity to win starting spots as well. In an emergency, Trumbo or Cody Asche could also fill in, both having OF experience.
After Trumbo, the next target during free agency was in the bullpen. Closer Jeanmar Gomez re-signed for $4.4 million after accepting arbitration. Then the Phillies went big in hopes of attaining another closer. However, bids for both Kenley Jansen ($17.5 million) and Mark Melancon ($12.5 million) were too low. The acquisition of Cervenka as a setup man will help, but overall this offseason was not a successful one for the bullpen.
A young core of starters in the rotation, including Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson and Zach Efflin, all bring talent – and low salaries. The 4 stand to make a combined $2.1 million next season. That low salary allowed the Phillies to sign Andrew Cashner, to give a veteran presence to the staff. After being outbid on Jeremy Hellickson, Ivan Nova and Rich Hill, Cashner was the best SP available. The return of oft-injured starter Matt Harrison and former top prospect Mark Appel, round out the candidates for the Phillies #5 spot in the rotation.
This years offseason project was a lot easier than the last two, due to the Phillies $100 million salary cap. While spending the available money wasn’t an issue, outbidding other teams was. Being in a rebuilding mode made trading more difficult. But as in real life the Philadelphia front office made the decision to role with the young guys and build from within. As always this project was a blast. So when the 2017 Phillies improve significantly from their 71-win, 2016 campaign … remember where the blueprint began!